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I read a post the other day from a fellow recovering drunk who was lamenting, I think it was, a new craft beer that had been released. I quit long enough ago craft beer was made by my buddy’s dad in the garage and tasted like… well, really not good. The craft beer of today wasn’t even a glimmer in someone’s eye yet. Hell, I quit before Zima and slightly after ICE beer.
It’s been a long time since I felt I missed out on a new drink. Hard lemonade, hard cider, hard seltzer water… and there is a very simple explanation for this; I don’t like prison more than I wish I could have a Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. Well, let’s put this into proper context; I don’t like prison more than I wish I could have 24 Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandies. You know what I’m getting at?
I default straight to the misery, and that’s why I don’t miss out. The trouble for newly recovered alcoholics is the new misery of quitting can tend to be only slightly less miserable than drinking. Especially if one is trying to white knuckle it. Blur the lines too much and drinking can win out. For someone like me, who continually works a recovery program and keeps a vivid memory of what my drinking misery was really like, it’s easy to pass because my life, with all its fleas, is awesome.
And awesome is good. Prison? Not so much.
And so it finally was, a spring day on which to ride, and on a Sunday no less….
We rolled out at 9 am, under partly cloudy skies and in just two light layers and a vest for me. It was 37° (that’s 3 C) but it felt like a balmy spring morning next to the conditions we’ve grown used to riding in. It was nice enough I had my Venge out, and Mrs. Bgddy, her Alias. It was our first go at “Sunday Funday”… See, my buddy, Mike has had a tough time recovering from heart surgery. Basically, his ticker sucks, so we’re trying to give him a ride once a week where he doesn’t have to worry about the pace. Rather than our usual pace near 20-mph, we’re keeping the goal around 18 – something he can keep up with and still enjoy himself – and we’ve got quite a few in our group who are looking forward to the change as well.
So off we went, dead into the wind, on our way out to Shiatown and Vernon. The day just kept getting better as we went. What was supposed to be an overcast morning turned into full sunshine as the clouds lost the battle to the spring sun. In the process, it warmed up to a glorious 50° (close to normal, actually). We ended up with one of those mornings that makes you grateful to have cycling as a hobby. We added a few miles and a few there until we had our fill.
And that’s when we came to an intersection and saw an aging fella in a pickup truck. Morbidly obese, pasty skin… he didn’t look good at all. I often say I want to be mobile when I’m 80, but that’s not quite true. I want to be mobile when I hit 95, and that’s why I ride a bike. The guy in the pickup wasn’t but ten years older than me and he didn’t have much time left.
My friends, I ride a bicycle because at 48, I’m just getting started in the good life and I want it to last for a long time. That’s why I ride a bike. Well, that and bikes are cool.
I just read a report on a new study that shows some serious adverse effects of getting too much sleep.
It seems that naps are great, but only if you slept less than six hours the night before.
Friends, I’ve been a five to seven hours a night guy for decades. Decades. And for decades I wondered if I was slowly killing myself because I wasn’t hitting that magic eight. So the six to eight hours recommended in the study is a relief. At least I’m close.
As the report concluded, everything in moderation, my friends. Even sleep.
We were set to roll at 8am. It was chilly out, near freezing, but it wasn’t too horrible, either. My buddy, Mike dropped off a pair of ear muffs for me the other day, and I was stoked to brake them in. For those not in the know, earmuffs that wrap behind the neck are the best thing since sliced bread for riding in the cold.
So I got the gravel bikes ready and the water bottles situated. I ate and showered and we bundled up to roll.
The first mile was cool, but with a tailwind, we warmed up pretty quickly. We were running between 18 & 20-mph, pretty fair for the gravel bikes, even on the pavement – and we were pedaling easy. After eight-ish miles, we headed south with a crosswind…
We had started out in a single-file pace line, but doubled up so we could talk. We were on a mission to take it easy as Mike, my heart diseased cycling buddy was with us. His heart is messed up and there really isn’t a fix. He’ll be fitted soon for a defibrillator so if he kicks out on us, at least it’ll zap is @$$ back.
We laughed and told stories, seven friends, catching up on the last several week’s happenings from being stuck inside on the hamster wheels (cycling trainers).
There’s absolutely something great to be said for speed and those fast 23-mph Tuesday nights… but that was fun!
We ended up with a little more than 23 miles in an hour and a half. I had a smile on my face all day. And we’re doing it again this morning – and it’s 15° (7 C) warmer! It’s going to feel like spring! And we decided to roll with the tandem!
A drug is a drug. It doesn’t matter what you use, it’s why you use that’s important.
I ran myself out of options before I made the decision to give full abstinence a try. I tried every combination I could think of. Beer only, weed only, beer and weed only, liquor only, weed only, liquor and weed only, beer and liquor only, beer and liquor and weed (a personal favorite), wine coolers (they’re great if you want a great buzz and an enormous stomach ache, all at the same time! Woohoo!)… I tried everything, but I couldn’t control my use for more than a few days, maybe even a couple of weeks if I found myself in enough trouble (I managed two weeks of control one time – then the wheels fell off).
After one too many run-ins with the police, the State of Michigan (the whole entire State) decided it might be a good idea if I tried to quit. I mean the whole State, too; it said on all of the paper work, “People of the State of Michigan vs. James L… A judge sent me to treatment.
The day I walked in the door, I fully planned on getting drunk the day I got out. I was going to do my time and I was getting out and I was getting lit once I did.
Then the DT’s started after a Category 5 hangover. I shook so bad I couldn’t drink out of a glass. I needed a straw. The nausea, the sweats… combine that with a general disgust for what I’d become and I was pretty low. I could have looked up and seen a snakes ass passing over me, folks. I mean low.
And that’s when I asked God for a deal. A bargain, if you will.
That night, lying in bed, I prayed and asked God if He’d just help me, I’d give recovery, and thereby abstinence, everything I had. When I woke up I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. For the first time since I’d picked up my first beer, I didn’t feel a compulsion to get lit. Friends, it was like stepping out of the dark into the light.
I was never as low as I’d been that night, since. No more snakes asses for me. The DT’s faded and eventually I got on with my life and really made something of myself. My life hasn’t been a perfect Hallmark card, but it’s pretty close, considering what I came from.
So taking my 26 years of continuous sobriety back to that night I made my bargain with God, there was one thing I really hoped for out of the deal.
I wanted to be happy.
Trigger (heh) Warning: I use derogatory terms when referring to drugs and alcohol, of any kind. I apologize profusely if it offends you, but it’s a defense mechanism for me so you’ll have to get over it. It has nothing to do with you anyway, so don’t get me started. You have been Trigger (heh) Warned.
Bill Wilson used PCP early in his attempts at recovery. He was wrong when he relied on it, but some drugs were actually thought to be useful back then, for certain mental issues. Thankfully, a lot’s happened in the last 80 years and we now know that PCP is bad. That’s a period at the end of the last sentence. It has no use in modern medicine, even though it did almost a century ago.
Anyway, this isn’t important – it has relevance, though. Let’s get into the Doobage Dain Broner Maintenance System and Recovery. More important, let’s start with what recovery isn’t. Recovery is defined by the thinking heads as:
“Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.”
Sucking on a joint, pipe, or bong is the opposite of abstinence. Now, I’m going to keep this very simple; there are no medical benefits in the use of pot worth sucking in the smoke in the first place. Politicians allow the ignorance persist because they want in on the money and it keeps the electorate stupid and easy to manipulate. The only thing better for that than alcohol is weed.
Recovery from an alcohol or drug addiction does not include switching drugs to keep you sufficiently high. Again, for the cheap seats, getting high the opposite of recovery. This is not rocket science. Let’s try to simplify this a little bit for the tokers in the crowd: In your comment down below, when you try to explain that weed can be an honest part of a recovery program, substitute heroin for pot for me. Try to convince me that because my drug of choice was alcohol, I should be able to shoot up some heroin and be fine. Heroin is too strong? How about crack cocaine? Meth? A drug is a drug is a drug. My friends, that’s quite literally how stupid it is to believe weed can be a part of recovery.
So why do I care? I’m going to be my usual blunt self (pun intended). I care because every person who puts down the dope and actually embraces recovery is a life saved from servitude. Every person who sees the light and stops using has a chance at freedom from the bondage to their addiction.
What it isn’t is a care that a stoner is going to somehow sully the word “recovery” by claiming dope smoking is a part of a recovery program. I couldn’t possibly care less how ignorant you remain. So long as you don’t expect me to cosign that bullshit.
This past week was a bit of a downer – and not only as weather goes. It was supposed to rain all week but I only really had to ride once on the trainer to avoid it, so we really lucked out there. There was a second trainer ride of the week, on Thursday, but that was for simplicity’s sake – and the fact it was cold outside and I just didn’t want to throw on all of the crap that would have been needed to stay warm.
Tuesday night we rode in short sleeves and shorts. Wednesday, had it not been raining, would have been knee warmers, wool socks and arm warmers. Thursday, had I ridden outside rather than choosing convenience and warmth, leg warmers, wool socks, arm warmers and a vest. Friday morning’s ride started out at just 38° (3 C) – so doing the math, that’s a drop of 44° or 24 C. For Saturday, it was full-on cold patrol; leg warmers, tights, wool socks, winter gloves, wind-stopper hat… Autumn, it appears, is here to stay. The weekly outlook is for fourteen days of the same – lows in the upper 30’s, highs in the low 50’s.
And that was the highlight. Friday morning’s ride was the real mess. We started out well enough. I’ve taken my computer off of my rain bike because I had a desire to be free of it for a while. I have a friend in the A Group who manages to ride without knowing how fast he’s going and he does quite well no matter the pace. I want to be able to do that, too. Well, I’m not very good at it, yet, so I can hammer some of my friends into the ground if I’m not careful – especially if I’m coming up to a City Limits sign I want.
Friday started out all fun and games. We rolled west, into the wind – I took some long turns up front, and we maintained a jovial mood. We stopped at a park to use the portable facilities and eat a snack. Everything was great. We’d rolled past a “Road Closed” sign, so Mike went up ahead to find out if the road was really closed or if we could get around… It was closed, so we looped back and decided to head for home.
Coming into the town of Durand, one of my “must get” signs, I started to crank the speed up a little early – I like to try to hurt those I can behind me to discourage them wanting to come around to try for the sprint. Cresting the little hill just before the sprint, I heard a shift of someone’s bike behind me and hit it. I hit the line smiling, north of 30-mph, then looked back and slowed to wait for my wife, Mike and Diane to catch up. Everything was smiles and chucks on shoulders. We looped around town to avoid crossing a massive set of train tracks five or six wide that we’d all fallen on at one point or another. It adds another two miles, but anyone who knows me, knows I don’t mind the bonus miles.
I was still up front and we were approaching the county line… another sign I like to get, but don’t “have to” have it… I picked the pace up a little bit – Strava shows I went from 20-21 to 23. My wife came around, if memory serves, to pip me, and we formed back up. She took the lead, I was behind her, and Diane and Mike followed.
My wife tapped out to go to the back and asked me to take it easy because Mike was having a tough time keeping up at 23. According to Strava, I picked the perfect gear for 20-mph and I kept it there. Two miles later, Mike was off the back by a quarter-mile. When he caught up, he complained of having a tough time. He said he could keep up at 20, but more than that was hurting him. Problem was, I’d been at 20… Diane is a medical professional, so we stopped at an intersection and she checked his pulse. It was faint, but she said he seemed to be regular enough. Mike said he was fine, so we pressed on. We let Mike take the lead so he could choose the pace with the wind at our back. We went on for another few miles but Mike would “hit a wall” every once in a while and slow from 18-19 to 16-mph and that’s when he mentioned he was short of breath, that he couldn’t get a deep breath.
Diane looked at me and we dropped back a bit… and she quietly said, “You need to call 9-1-1 right now”. I pulled out my phone and did as I was told, after making sure I heard right. Fortunately, we had just happened on the Gaines Township Fire and Rescue station, so we had Mike pull into the parking lot so she could check his pulse again. We got Mike off his bike and she checked him out. His pulse was “all over the place”.
We managed to keep Mike off his bike for a few minutes but he wouldn’t sit down. After about five minutes, with an ambulance on the way, he said he was okay again and went to get back on his bike. Diane was fairly adamant that Mike choosing to ride home was a very bad idea – and I liked the idea that we were sitting in the parking lot of the fire station (!). If there’s anywhere to be when you need an ambulance, it’s at the fire station for God’s sake. Diane and my wife, who was also on the phone with Mike’s wife or daughter, tried to talk him off his bike while I stood in front of his handlebar so he couldn’t get rolling to clip in. He tried to move his front wheel to roll, and I’d side-step in front of him again. This went on for a minute when two fire & rescue folks rolled up in their pickup. A woman got out of the passenger side and immediately went to Mike and worked on getting him off the bike with my wife and Diane. The guy who was driving grabbed a medical-looking bag and headed for the door of the fire station, urging us inside where it was warm. The woman tending to Mike told him she was a nurse and that he should go inside, just to get checked out. And finally he broke. He got off his bike and headed over to the door.
From there it was a flurry of activity and Mike getting sorted. Phone calls were made and I sat down with a small cup of coffee that the firefighter had offered. An already long story shortened, Mike finally agreed to a ride home in the pickup of the fire and rescue people, but no ambulance. He wanted to go home and wash up before he went to the hospital. He called his cardiologist and let him know what was going on. I put Mike’s bike in the pickup and after the ambulance techs ran a few tests, he got in the truck and took his ride home.
My wife, Diane and I rode home without our buddy.
Mike is doing well, though he’s in the hospital till he goes through a couple of procedures on Monday. The good part is they know what they’re looking for now. Having Diane there for the episode was perfect. Because she got his pulse, they know they’re looking at an arrhythmia problem rather than a racing problem. We stopped up to see him for a bit last night. He seemed to be in a good mood, though he’s pissed at the electrical heart doc who told him he should rethink his cycling. You can guess where that went. An “F” bomb or two was dropped.
According to what Mike said, they ruled out a heart attack, which is fantastic news. Sadly, they haven’t come up with a way to remove the cranky yet. They’re still working on that… and it’s a very good chance he’ll die of natural causes before they figure that out.